When disposing of ballasts, it is important to understand the possible hazards. Ballasts typically contain packing material that may be ignitable and they may contain PCBs. EHS should be contacted for any ballast disposal. To establish a PCB ballast collection drum, please contact EHS at x81450 for assistance.

Unless the ballast label specifically reads - "NON PCB CONTAINING" or something similar, you must assume that the ballast contains PCBs. If the ballast label is illegible, you should assume it contains PCBs. All PCB ballasts must be collected by EHS.

If your team is involved in a large scale renovation or construction project, ensure a system is in place to collect all ballasts. Please use adequate collection containers for the ballasts eg.- 5 gallon poly (plastic) screw top pail, 15 gallon poly open top, 30/55 gallon poly or steel drums. The containers should be closed when not adding ballasts and be labeled as USED PCB BALLASTS. PCB ballasts and Non-PCB ballast should NOT be collected in the same container. 

Leaking ballasts

Leaking ballasts must be managed as hazardous waste and separated from the non-leaking ballasts and labeled as USED PCB LEAKING BALLASTS.

Non-Leaking, Non- PCB ballasts

All Non-Leaking, Non-PCB ballasts should be collected through EHS. Facilities generating Non-PCB ballast as a result of ongoing maintenance activities are encouraged to set up a suitable container for their collection. If your team is involved in a large scale renovation or construction project, ensure a system is in place to collect all ballasts. Please use adequate collection containers for the ballasts eg.- 5 gallon poly screw top pail, 15 gallon poly open top, 30/55 gallon poly or steel drums. The containers should be closed when not adding ballasts and be labeled as USED NON-PCB BALLASTS. Contact EHS for any additional assistance at x81450.

Used Oil

The EPA defines used oil as any oil that has been refined from crude oil or any synthetic oil that has been used and as a result is contaminated by physical or chemical impurities. Simply put, used oil is exactly what its name implies- any petroleum-based or synthetic oil that has been used. At NYU, used oil gets recycled off-campus, but it must be properly collected and labeled. EHS should be contacted for assistance in collecting any used oil. 

Used Paint

Paint is a mixture of liquid and powder: the powdered pigments provide color to the paint, and the liquid binds the powder together allowing it to be spread on a surface. In some paints, a solvent, or thinner, is used to make the paint easier to spread. There are many types of paint with very specific purposes:

  • Oil-based paints are typically moisture-resistant and abrasion-resistant, making them the ideal paint type for building exteriors, high-contact areas, and high humidity indoor locations. 
  • Latex paints may be preferred for smaller projects due to their fast drying properties and ability to be cleaned using soap and water. 
  • Primers are used as the first coat on plaster and wood walls and usually have a varnish or synthetic resin base. They coat and flow into the uneven surface, filling in the tiny holes and cracks to allow the next layers of paint to be smoothed across without soaking into the wall. 
  • Lacquers are used to paint automobiles and are made with synthetic resins and fast evaporating solvents. 
  • Fire-retardent and heat-resistant paints are used where there is danger of high heat or fire. Fire-retardent paints use an oil or oil resin base and have chemicals that cause it to blister and form an insulating barrier between the fire and the wall. Heat-resistant paints are used for surfaces designed for hot conditions such as ovens, and boilers.

Most paints have four components: resin, solvent, pigment and additives. To determine the hazardous ingredients of paint, request a Material Safety Data Sheet from the retailer upon purchase.

  • The resin is the main ingredient and forms a coating or film on the surface being painted. This typically non-hazardous component includes linseed, acrylic or other synthetic resins. The solvent keeps the paint in a liquid form until the solvent evaporates after the paint is applied.
  • The solvent in oil-based paint is derived from a petroleum distillate and can include such hazardous ingredients as mineral spirits, toluene and xylene. Oil-based paint should be disposed of as hazardous waste.
  • The solvent in latex paint is water and therefore not hazardous as a result of its solvent component.
  • Pigments provide the color and opacity or covering power. The major pigments used presently are titanium oxide, iron oxide, calcium sulfate, clay or silicates. These pigments are relatively nontoxic and not considered to be hazardous according to the EPA. Some highly colored pigments may contain heavy metals such as chromium, cadmium, or arsenic. If your paint contains these metals for pigmentation, the paint is considered to be hazardous waste.
  • Paints purchased before 1977 may contain lead in the pigment. Lead, also a heavy metal, is poisonous. Do not use paint purchased prior to 1977. Paint may also have additives. Some latex paints contain a mercury-based fungicide preservative. Mercury is a heavy metal that is highly toxic. Paints containing mercury produced since August 1990 had to be labeled exclusively for exterior use.

Concerns have arisen about health risks due to the severe effects of several heavy metals traditionally added to paint, including antimony, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, lead, and mercury. The use of lead in paints was phased out beginning in 1978, and the use of mercury in most paints was phased out beginning in the early 1990s (small amounts of mercury may still be found in specialty paints - call the paint manufacturer and ask as the product information may not be required to disclose this).

As of August 1991, the United States Environmental Protection Agency prohibits mercury in all newly manufactured paints. The National Paint and Coatings Association has voluntarily complied with these guidelines. To determine if your latex paint contains mercury, call the National Pesticide Telecommunication Network at 1-800-858-7378.

Never put liquid paint into the trash or pour it down the drain. Paint disposed of this way can contaminate our water resources and the environment.

Reducing Paint Waste

There are a number of ways to reduce paint waste. Before purchasing paint, measure the area to be painted. Talk with suppliers and/or contractors and read product information to determine the right amount of paint to purchase. Store leftover paint for future use by securing the paint lid tightly (loosely covering a container of paint dries it out) and store in an area that will not allow the paint to freeze (frozen paint becomes unusable).

Recycled Paint

Recycled paint is made from paint collected through public and private collection programs. Collected paints are screened for usability and quality. Virgin materials such as resins and colorants can be added, and the products may be tested before packaging and resale. Recycled paint contains 20 percent to 100 percent postconsumer content.

There are two types of recycled-content paint: reprocessed and reblended. Although both types originate from the collection of leftover latex paint, there are important differences.

Reprocessed paint

Reprocessed paint, also called remanufactured paint, is mixed with virgin materials such as resins and colorants, and is then tested, generally by the same tests as those done on virgin paints, before packaging for resale. [5] Reprocessed paint typically contains a minimum of 50 percent postconsumer content.

Reblended paint

Reblended paint, also called consolidated paint, is re-mixed, screened, and packaged for distribution. Virgin raw materials such as resins and colorants may be added in small quantities. Minimal testing is applied to reblended paint. Typically, reblended paint contains more than 95 percent postconsumer content, with ranges between 75 percent to 100 percent postconsumer content.

What to look for

What to look for: Consider the application to determine which type of recycled paint is appropriate. Look for reprocessed paint if a higher quality product is needed and look for paint labeled or sold as "recycled paint" with at least 50 percent postconsumer content.

Air Quality (low VOCs)

All oil and many latex-based paints contain organic solvents to disperse and bind other paint components. These organic solvents are the major ingredients that contribute to indoor VOC levels when paints are applied inside a building. Many VOCs in paints are known to cause human health effects, such as: headaches, fatigue, eye and, in some individuals, upper respiratory irritation. There are outdoor and indoor air quality considerations for paint. Please consult the SDS and EHS prior to purchasing any products to be used in renovation and construction.


Solvent is the liquid in paint that suspends the pigment and resins and transports them from the paint brush to the wall. The solvent then evaporates and leaves the paint film behind. Solvents in paint can be water (for latex paint) or mineral spirits (for oil based alkyd paint). The less solvent in the paint, the higher the quality and the better the coverage.

A solvent is a solution that breaks down the essential properties of paints and varnishes, lacquer, shellac, oils, grease and adhesive residues. There are many different kinds of solvents, each performing a specific reaction (function) with a specific product. All solvents, except for water, have a toxic effect on organic tissue, biochemical, physiochemical and neurochemical. Use with care and always dispose of properly.

  • It is important to use caution with solvents. Always use appropriate protective gear on all exposed body areas, especially the hands and eyes. Always work in a well-ventilated room. Refrain from smoking of working near heat sources as many solvents are flammable.
  • All solvents should be properly disposed of through EHS.


Turpentine is an effective solvent for oil and alkyd based paints and varnishes, and removing tar, grease and tree sap. Genuine turpentine has a strong odor and is becoming less commonly used in the painting and art industries. Many substitute products have arrived on the market that performs essentially the same function, with less noxious vapors. Some of the substitutes include mineral spirits and turpenoid. EHS discourages the use of turpentine and should be disposed of by calling x81450.

Mineral spirits (White spirits)

Mineral spirits is a petroleum-based product. Mineral spirits is an oil based solvent ideally used for thinning oil based exterior and interior varnishes, such as oil varnish, and paint products, as well as an efficient solvent for artist’s oil paints.


Turpenoid is a turpentine substitute with limited odor, ideally suited for artist oil painting.

Lacquer thinner

Used to dilute, dissolve and clean up of lacquer products. Typically too caustic for oil paints, lacquer thinner is often used additionally for removing inks on metal, and adhesive residue from a variety of surfaces. Lacquer thinner is very strong and rapidly deteriorates many surfaces and fabrics. EHS discourages the use of Lacquer thinner and should be disposed of by calling x81450.

Denatured Alcohol

A solvent primarily used to dilute and dissolve shellac and aniline dyes. Denatured alcohol also acts as a semi-aggressive cleaning agent.

MEK (methyl ethyl ketone or 2-butanone)

MEK is a highly caustic solvent and a known carcinogen. It is prohibited from use on NYU Campus.


Though typically used as a fuel, kerosene has very strong solvent properties. For ‘oil glazing’ in decorative finishing, kerosene is sometimes employed to make the glaze ‘hot’, increasing the workable time with the glaze, as well as ‘fusing’ with a glaze previously applied. EHS discourages the use and should be disposed of by calling x81450.

Kerosene is highly flammable. Always use in a well-ventilated area. Wear protective gear over all exposed areas of the body. Do not smoke or use near any open heat source.


Typically used as a fuel, gasoline has very strong solvent properties. Often used to remove grease, tar, and waxes. Gasoline makes an excellent solvent for cleaning tools and metal parts.

Gasoline is highly flammable. Always use in a well-ventilated area. Wear protective gear over all exposed areas of the body. Do not smoke or use near any open heat source.


A moderately aggressive solvent. Acetone is often used to clean glass, general dirt and grime. In restoration and conservation practices acetone is often used to clean dirt, soot and grime from paintings and furniture. It is also used for the slow dissolving of varnished paintings, to clean, then re-varnish the painting.


Water acts as general solvent and thinner with virtually all water based interior and exterior paints and varnishes. Most latex, acrylic products break down in water. Artist acrylic paints , watercolor, gauche, tempura paint all use water as the dilution agent.

Many other chemicals - including formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, and methylene chloride - can be present in paint and pose health risks to paint users and occupants of buildings. Formaldehyde, often added to paint as a preservative, is a known human carcinogen and respiratory irritant. Other organic solvents used in paint can be carcinogenic as well. The MSDS from the distributor provides important information on ingredients in the paint that are health hazards. However, it is only required to disclose chemicals in the paint that are more than 1 percent for non-carcinogens, and more than 0.1 percent for carcinogens. Exposure to chemicals present in paints that are below the mentioned non-disclosure levels can cause health effects depending on various factors such as the type of chemical(s) exposed to, exposure conditions, sensitivity of the exposed population, etc. Growing interest in worker and occupant safety has led to an increasing number of safer paint choices.

Generally, water-based latex paints contain fewer solvents and toxic materials than oil-based paints.

What to look for: Look for product information on latex paints showing the ingredients - avoid paints with the solvents and heavy metals listed above. Oil-based paints for renovation and construction purposes is prohibited.


EHS must make a hazard determination of oil, solvent and paint rags prior to disposal to determine the proper disposal method. If you are disposing of these rags in the trash without written approval from EHS, please call x81450.

Areas of Concern

  • Elevator Machine Rooms
  • Boiler Machine Rooms
  • Painting Facilities

Rag disposal depends on the particular process and the material's characteristics. It should be assumed that the rags exhibit the same Hazardous Waste Characteristics as would the chemical applied to it. If the substance was a hazardous chemical, the rags therefore must be considered a hazardous waste and must be handled as such and disposed of through EHS. For more information on disposal, click on Disposal.

Aerosol Cans

Aerosol cans whether spent or unspent need to be collected, labeled and disposed of as hazardous waste. For more information on hazards and labeling, please reach out to EHS at

Outside Contractors

Every contractor on New York University (NYU) premises is expected to follow University policies and report any environmental, health or safety concerns to their NYU Construction Project Manager (PM) or NYU Facility Manager (FM).  The policies set forth have been designed to protect not only NYU employees and properties, but also those employees contracted to work on NYU premises.

All contractors must follow Facilities and Construction Management's Construction and Maintenance Work Rules: FCM Work Rules (.DOC).